Aylmerton Nature Diary


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Monday 9th October

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One of several Hornet, feeding on Ivy – Felbrigg Park

We were guests at the St John’s harvest lunch yesterday. Lovely meal and engaging company – thanks to Connie for inviting us. In the afternoon I spent a couple of hours in the park, managing to dodge the showers. As I walked down the central path towards the lake a distant loose flock of about 25 thrushes flew high, west, over the Great Wood. I couldn’t hear them call but, from their general jizz, I thought they were probably Redwing. Pretty much the same wildfowl on the lake as yesterday, with fewer Wigeon though – I did see Coot and heard Water Rail squealing from the reed-bed. I spent some time at what remains of the hedgerow below the dam. There were a few wary migrant Blackbirds, several late Hornet feeding on Ivy flowers and a lone dragonfly which, from the brief views I got, looked like Migrant Hawker. Another flock of thrushes passed over, going west – definitely Redwing.  I’d just exited the park through the back gate when I heard the distinctive hoarse chatter of a group of yet more Redwing, perched in the nearby Ash trees. I counted thirteen in total before they took flight and headed off towards the church. Looking at the NENBC website, there were a few records from this area yesterday – about a week later than the first arrivals last year.

Redwing flock, flying high, west, over the lake – record shot only!IMG_1693

I was lying awake this morning at 05.30 – still haven’t quite shaken off the jet-lag, when I heard the familiar call of Little Owl from somewhere close-by.  An unexpected but welcome garden tick!

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Sunday 8th October

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Lesser Whitethroat – previously bred in the now desecrated hedge, south of Felbrigg dam

Our plane arrived at Heathrow at 6.00am yesterday and by 2.00pm I was in Felbrigg Park – anxious to see what changes had occurred during our month-long absence. It felt almost like autumn had been and gone whilst I was away and that winter had firmly taken hold. There were very few small birds about, other than the usual resident species, with most of the birding action being water-related. An increase in duck numbers on the lake was evident, with up to nine Gadwall, ten Wigeon, and 13 Tufted Duck – including the now resident hybrids. There was a handful of Teal under the vegetation along the western edge and, further down Scarrow Beck, two Snipe. A Marsh Tit was eating Honeysuckle berries near the viewing screen and a single Meadow Pipit called over the rough grazing.

The most significant change however was another act of habitat desecration around the outflow from the lake and along the entire length of hedge below the dam! This (former) hedgerow was one of the best locations for resident and visiting birds across the whole Felbrigg estate with, in recent years, breeding Lesser Whitethroat and migrant Ring Ouzel, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher all being reported. I know that this stuff generally grows back in time but losses of these wildlife ‘hot-spots’ is indeed most regrettable!

Post Script

Although just outside the NENBC, I was pleased to see two Swallows, near Little Snoring, on the drive home.


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Wednesday 4th October

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Splendid Fairy-wren – an unlikely candidate to be found in Felbrigg!

Our Australia trip – highlights of which can be found on TrevorOnTour, is drawing to a close. Whilst it’s great to get away, see the family and bird in different parts of the world, I’m always anxious about what I might have been missing back at home – particularly in the parish and Felbrigg Park. Mercifully on this occasion, judging by NENBC reports, it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much, apart from a few late departing summer residents. I’ll be back on the patch at the weekend and resuming regular posting there after.


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AND Annual Review – 2016-2017

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Cattle Egret – the ‘stand-out bird’ of Felbrigg Park over the past twelve months

Looking back over the past twelve months the nature high-lights of this small parish, together with Felbrigg Park, have been many and varied. There has been the expected handful of scarce or rare species, with an impressive supporting cast of the uncommon and unfamiliar. The stand-out birds of last Autumn were undoubtably Yellow-browed Warbler – these tiny ‘sprites’ from Asia, turn up with increasing regularity in Felbrigg and, in 2016, one was actually found in Aylmerton village. Good numbers of wintering Brambling arrived, and by late October there was a flock of over a hundred birds feeding on beech mast around Felbrigg lake.img_7675 Teal numbers were also a feature of the winter, with the peak count reaching an amazing 452. Other wildfowl interest included the probable returning pair of Whooper Swan, seen for several days around the village and over the lake, a fine – brief staying, male Pintail on 29th December img_8284and a peak count of nine Mandarin – another Felbrigg speciality. The year came to a close with the surprising discovery of a lone Black-tailed Godwit on the water meadows, found whilst the true identification of a possible Ruddy Shelduck was being ascertained – which eventually turned out to be a hybrid Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck, the pink not black legs being the giveaway feature. The other hybrid event of the year was the confirmation of one, and then a second, male Tufted x Ferruginous Duck which have been visiting the lake, on an occasional basis, since last summer. By this Autumn their full ‘shared heritage’ was on display, including full white rear ends.  IMG_0074 2Other highlights of the first winter period included a visiting 1st winter Great-crested Grebe and a flock of twenty Redpoll, including at least one Common (Mealy) – found on an NENBC mid-week walk. Winter turned to Spring with the excellent discovery of a Cattle Egret, found on the dam on 22nd March and later re-locating to the sheep fields around Felbrigg church, where it remained for the next three days. This was quickly followed by a handsome male Stonechat, a bird which remains a surprisingly scarce visitor to the park. Winter Thrush numbers increased during April, including several fine male Ring Ouzel and IMG_0263a particularly late Fieldfare, seen on 12th May – just days after the  NENBC annual ‘Big Sit’, which, despite the unseasonably cold weather, produced an incredible three new species for Felbrigg Park – Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and the long-anticipated Arctic Tern! Mid-summer birding high-lights were few but the successful breeding of Gadwall was of note as was the return of two pairs of Spotted Flycatcher. The start of Autumn wader movement was heralded by a group of five Common Sandpiper at the lake and up to five Greenshank, which first appeared on a flooded field in neighbouring Gresham, with odd birds being seen around the parish.IMG_1143 My August birthday was marked by a fly-over Osprey – an area first for me and the 150th species recorded since starting the AND blog. The Summer season concluded with the successful fledging of three young Hobby in the park – for several local birders their personal high-light of the Felbrigg year.IMG_1680 Outside of the park the two birding high-lights of the year for me were undoubtably the discovery of up to four calling Quail, heard in July at the edge of the village, and, earlier in the year, the temporary appearance of ten Hawfinch, behind my neighbours garden, from 8th January until mid-February – an unprecedented event in recent Norfolk birding history! img_2613Non-birding high-lights included a late Red-veined Darter and the reappearance of Willow Emerald Damselfly at several locations in the area.

2016 – 17 was the usual wildlife mix of the expected, the unfamiliar and the down-right rare. It’s not surprising then that this small corner of Norfolk has produced records of over 200 bird species, since serious recording started in the 1970’s. Who knows what the next twelve months will produce..

Red-veined Darter – a non-birding high-light of the AND year

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AND Annual beating the bounds

It’s become a bit of an AND anniversary tradition for me – beating the parish bounds. This year I had the pleasure of the company of son Matthew and good friends Bob and Sue for the 12 kilometre walk. For details of the route and changing scenery please click this link. Our excursion was completed in a reasonably leisurely three and a half hours, this year for a change walking in a clock-wise direction. Because of other commitments the walk was undertaken at the end of August – a few weeks earlier than normal. As a consequence the bird-count was rather low, at just forty-five, with no particular stand-out species, just good selection of parkland and farmland birds. Still, a lovely walk and pleasant company, taking me to parts of the parish I otherwise rarely visit. Here’s us at the finish – off for a much deserved brunch and beer!

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Happy 3rd Anniversary

3rd Anniversary

Aylmerton Nature Diary is three today! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who have read, commented or contributed to this blog since it’s inception. Since beginning the blog it’s received over 20,000 visits, from nearly 6,000 visitors, from more than forty countries – amazing!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started back in September 2014 but this level of interest in the nature of such a small place is remarkable. It’s also testimony to the power of the internet that these, often incidental, wildlife moments can be shared by people living on the other side of the world – as well as your neighbours of course! Actually, I never really thought about ‘readership’ when I started, I did it mostly as an easy way to record and remember the wildlife events on my regular walks around the parish and through Felbrigg Park – a kind of ‘living diary’. Well here we are, three years on, and I’m still walking and recording – here’s to another year of AND. Cheers!


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Wednesday 13th September

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Three young Hobby – Febrigg Park

It was rather blustery this morning for what will be my last walk around the park for sometime. Not surprisingly there were very few small birds visible, with winds still gusting at over forty mph. At the lake the Tufted Duck flock had increased to ten, including the two Tufted X Ferruginous hybrids and there were still a pair of Gadwall hanging around. The BIG surprise came as I walked up the path towards Common Plantation, in search of Hobby. I heard a brief call before spying a juvenile, sat high-up in one of the dead oaks. As I looked closer I could see a second bird, half hidden, behind it – clearly another juvenile. Then to my absolute surprise a third juvenile on a branch just below them. These birds have been under near-constant observation since late August but as far as I’m aware no-one has previously positively identified three juvenile birds. This is an excellent record – a local breeding pair producing three independent off-spring. As Phil remarked the other day ‘this is the high-light of (his) Felbrigg year’ – probably mine to, but wait until you read my review of the AND Year, shortly!

On another note, I bumped into Ivan at the lake, who told me of a recent encounter involving a probable pair of Goshawk, over the western perimeter of the park. His knowledge of local birds and his description would suggest that there is a strong possibility that we’ve got visitors! Bearing in mind the obvious pit-fall of ‘large Sparrowhawk’, I’d be interested in any other records from blog readers.